Bucknell Men's Basketball Hits Exam Break at 8-1 after 76-60 Win over Kent State
Dec. 4, 2012
LEWISBURG, Pa. - Mike Muscala scored 27 points and Cameron Ayers spearheaded a terrific team defensive effort to lift Bucknell to a 76-60 victory over annual Mid-American Conference contender Kent State on Tuesday evening at Sojka Pavilion. Bryson Johnson and freshman Ryan Frazier contributed 13 points apiece for the Bison, who head into final exams with an 8-1 record.
Joe Willman added eight points and 10 rebounds, and Ayers had nine points, five rebounds and a season-high four assists for the Bison, who are 8-1 for just the third time since 1940. Tuesday's victory was one of the team's most complete performances of the season, coming against a Kent State (5-4) team that has won at least 20 games and played in the postseason (NCAA, NIT or CIT) in 13 of the last 14 years.
Muscala was coming off a monster 29-point, 19-rebound performance in Saturday's win at Columbia, and against Kent State he followed it up with 27 more points, marking the first time in his career he has tallied 27 or more points in back-to-back games. Muscala was limited to six rebounds, but the Bison still finished with a 34-22 advantage on the glass against a Golden Flashes team that came in averaging 14 offensive boards and 16 second-chance points per game. Kent State had seven offensive rebounds in the first half but only two in the second, when the Bison outscored them 44-29 to break open a one-point game at the half.
Ayers spent much of the night defending 6-8 forward Chris Evans, who came in averaging 18.1 points and 7.6 rebounds. With the help of some double-teams, Ayers limited Evans to five points and four boards, with his only two field goals coming deep into the second half.
Second-leading scorer Randal Holt (15.1 ppg) was held to one field goal and six points, although he did have a game-high six assists. Evans and Holt were accounting for 45 percent of Kent State's scoring entering the night, but that duo was kept to a combined 11 points on 3-for-16 shooting. In fact, no Golden Flashes starter reached double figures. Kent State's best production came from reserves Devareaux Manley (15 points) and Kris Brewer (10 points), who combined for five of the team's seven 3-pointers.
Bucknell received terrific production from starting point guard Ryan Hill and the reserve Frazier. Hill penetrated well and finished with four points, four assists and five rebounds in 26 minutes. Frazier played 25 minutes off the bench, knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and tallied a career-high 13 points to go with four rebounds and an assist.
The Bison shot a season-best 54.7 percent from the field and had a season-high 17 assists on 29 made field goals. They outscored Kent State 34-20 in the paint and limited the Golden Flashes to 39.2-percent shooting.
"I thought that was an outstanding performance tonight, and given the difficulty of the schedule that we have played so far, I am extremely pleased to be 8-1 going into finals," said head coach Dave Paulsen. "That is a very good team that we played tonight, I was very impressed with their athleticism. Cameron Ayers did an unbelievable job on Chris Evans, who is a really good player. To hold him to five points is great, and is indicative of a tremendously focused effort by Cam and the whole team."
Bucknell got out to an early 11-3 lead, as Muscala accounted for all nine points a 9-0 run. But Manley came off the bench and stroked back-to-back 3-pointers, and it was a tight game for the rest of the half. While the Bison struggled a bit from long range, Kent State connected on 5 of 9 first-half treys. Brewer's 3-pointer gave Kent State a 28-26 lead in the late stages of the half, but Ayers hit a trey with 41 seconds left and the Bison finished with a stop to go into the locker room up a point at 32-31.
That turned out to be the final lead change of the night, as Bucknell really got going offensively in the second half, shooting 59.3 percent overall and 4-for-7 from the arc. The Bison hit their first four shots of the half, including a 3-pointer by Johnson. The first miss of the half was on a Frazier layup that rimmed out, but Muscala was there for the tip-in to give Bucknell a 43-35 cushion.
A Muscala layup and a Johnson transition three bumped the lead to nine at 55-46 at the 10-minute mark. Evans hit his only two shots of the night, a two and a three, to keep Kent State within arm's reach at six points, but Muscala exploded for eight points in 65 seconds to blow it open.
Muscala beat his man along the baseline for a reverse layup, he swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key and he drove the lane for a traditional 3-point play to vault a 57-51 lead all the way up to 65-51.
The Bison held the Golden Flashes without a field goal for almost four full minutes. With just over 3:00 to play Muscala couldn't quite control an alley-oop pass, but he got his own rebound and scored anyway. Then he made a great skip pass out of a double team to a wide-open Frazier, who drained the 3-pointer to give Bucknell its largest lead of the night, 18 points at 72-54.
"We got into a real nice flow offensively in the second half," said Paulsen. "When you are scoring like that it can carry over and give you a lift on the defensive end, and it puts pressure on the other team to score. Collectively, this is the most advanced we have been in our defensive rotations."
This was the first-ever meeting between Bucknell and Kent State, and it was Bucknell's second win over a team from the MAC, with the other coming against Northern Illinois in 2006-07.
Muscala entered the night as the only Division I player averaging at least 15 points and 12 rebounds per game, and he upped his career scoring total to 1,568 points. That is just nine behind Kevin Bettencourt for fourth in program history. With his two blocked shots against Kent State, Muscala moved into third place all-time in the Patriot League with 211.
Johnson passed Ted Aceto to move into 24th place on Bucknell's career scoring list with 1,124 points. He hit three more 3-pointers against Kent State, giving him 273in his career. That moves him into sixth place on the Patriot League's all-time chart, and he is now within 21 of Bettencourt's Bucknell mark.
Now 3-0 at home this season and 102-32 all-time at Sojka Pavilion, the Bison will be back home again on Dec. 15 against La Salle at 7 p.m.
Bucknell-Kent State Highlights